National Politics

A Texas senator could (but probably won’t) succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to a gathering in Washington earlier this year.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to a gathering in Washington earlier this year. AP

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has been mentioned as a possible successor to Jeff Sessions, who was ousted as attorney general by President Trump the day after the midterm elections.

But the Texas Republican says he isn’t pursuing the attorney general job and prefers to stay in the Senate.

“I love my job in the Senate and I think I have finally been here long enough that I have figured out how to do that,” Cornyn said Friday in Fort Worth, where he was a speaker at a Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition luncheon. “As I told the president previously when he asked me if I would consider being FBI director, I said ‘Mr. President, I think I can serve the country and help you by serving in my current position.’ And that’s still my belief.”

Cornyn is a former Texas attorney general, and also served on the Texas Supreme Court.

The focus of the luncheon was mostly about traffic and mobility in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which faces ever-increasing transportation challenges as the region continues to be one of the nation’s fastest-growing population and jobs centers.

But Cornyn — who faces re-election in 2020 — also fielded questions from the emcee, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, about the combative, partisan atmosphere in Washington.

The senator said he believes both parties are “in the process of realignment” as elected leaders try to figure out how to find favor with voters — many of whom want their respective parties to modify long-held positions on issues such as free trade.

Cornyn said the strong running by Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, who nearly unseated fellow Texan Ted Cruz in an underdog bid for the state’s other Senate seat, shows that politicians “can’t take Republican victory in Texas for granted anymore.”

He also acknowledged that it’s not always easy to work with President Trump.

“People ask what it’s like to work with the president, and honestly his style is not my style,” Cornyn said. “But my job is to work with the president and work with my colleagues for the betterment of the country.”

So, does Cornyn think Sessions, who resigned under pressure from President Trump, was treated fairly?

“He (Sessions) is a law-and-order guy. That’s my kind of attorney general. But clearly he had a conflict with President Trump,” Cornyn said. “I believe the office of the attorney general is one of the most difficult jobs to navigate in the cabinet because while you’re the chief law enforcement officer of the country you also serve at the pleasure of the president, which makes it a political appointment. ... So now the interesting challenge he (Trump) will have is who the president will nominate as successor — and can they get confirmed by the Senate? That’s going to be the next challenge.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn, speaking at the Lockheed roll out of South Korea F-35A in Fort Worth, is hopeful that a conflict with North Korea's Kim Jong Un can be avoided and views the meeting between the North and President Trump as positive.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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